Mark Malloch Brown, the head of the United Nations' Development Program, in promoting the pro-GM message of the controversial recent UNDP report, placed especial emphasis on successful GM rice research in Asia sponsored by the Japanese government amongst others.
According to reports of what Malloch Brown said, the new rice varieties will "have 50 percent higher yields, mature 30 to 50 days earlier, are substantially richer in protein; are far more disease and drought tolerant, resist insect pests and can even out-compete weeds. And they will be especially useful because they can be grown without fertilizer or herbicides, which many poor farmers can't afford anyway. This initiative shows the enormous potential of biotech to improve food security in Africa, Asia and Latin America."
A lot then has been hung on the extraordinary success of Asian GM rice research and, hardly surprisingly, Malloch Brown's remarkable claims were widely reported in the media coverage at the time of the UNDP report's launch.
So we asked Devlin Kuyek, who has reported extensively (see below) on the research findings from GM rice trials in Asia, what he made of the UNDP claims.
Devlin says that not only are they marked by exaggeration but that none of the claims made -- on which don't forget a whole global development policy is being based -- have yet been proven in farmers' fields.
Devlin Kuyek wrote:
Those are some pretty lofty claims by the UNDP. "Will" is defintely not an appropriate word at this stage, given that none of these claims have been proven in farmers fields.
The reports I did with GRAIN and other organisations in Asia also provide a sense of where the research on GE rice is heading and who's behind it. "Far more disease tolerant" is a great exaggeration as the papers on bb rice and rice blast show.